The US Marshals Service, the agency tasked with protecting federal judges and finding fugitives, is facing major staffing and operational challenges that could hinder its ability to identify and stop threats, according to a new report from the agency’s watchdog, an alarming analysis following the intelligence breakdowns preceding the January 6 riot and the recent murder of a judge’s son.
“We found that the USMS does not have the resources or proactive threat detection capabilities that the USMS has determined it needs to meet its protective service obligations for USMS-protected persons, including judges,” the Justice Department inspector general said in the report released Wednesday.
The US Marshals Service protects roughly 2,700 judges nationwide, and notes threats or inappropriate contacts have spiked in recent years. The inspector general report points out the agency responded to more than 4,200 threats in 2020, up 81% from 2016.
According to the report however, the service needs an additional 1,200 people to properly tackle the growing trend and fulfill its overall mission.
“Resource limitations and competing agency budget and staffing priorities have impeded USMS’s ability to provide the level of protective services that it has determined is required given the increasing number of threats directed at the judiciary,” the report said.
Further, the report says USMS does not have “adequate proactive threat detection capabilities to monitor the current landscape, including in online and social media settings.” The report went on to suggest the home security options offered by USMS are utilized infrequently, and even when judges take advantage to the program, the equipment is out of date.
Heartbreaking proof of possible of violence occurred in 2020, when a man opened fire at the 20-year-old son of federal judge Esther Salas at their home in North Brunswick, New Jersey. The gunman, a hate-filled men’s rights attorney who had argued a case before Judge Salas, killed her son and seriously wounded her husband, Mark Anderl.
In a video posted to YouTube, Salas said the shooting came just after her son Daniel Anderl celebrated his 20th birthday at their home with friends from Catholic University, where he was a rising junior.
While investigating the shooting, officials discovered threats against Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as well, Salas told CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
This month, the Judicial Conference, the national organization that crafts policy for the courts, listed Anderl’s death in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee to advocate for more security funding.
“There is an urgent need for immediate Congressional action to address the security of judges and federal courthouses,” the letter said.
“The U.S. Marshals are responsible for the protection of the federal judicial process, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” the agency said in response to the OIG report.
“Ensuring that the judicial process operates independently and free from harm or intimidation is paramount to the rule of law and the reduction of violent crime,” it added. “The integrity of the judicial process is predicated on the safe and secure conduct of judicial proceedings and the protection of judges, jurors, and witnesses.”